TAMPA, Fla. — Logan Shell, 11, and Tess Lockwood, 13, made it look easy.
Thursday, as a steady stream of cars flowed through the pick-up lanes at the Metropolitan Ministries holiday tent on North Rome Avenue in Tampa, the two young people quickly loaded boxes of food and bags of toys into the trunks of cars occupied by families who were in need.
“It’s really unfortunate to see how sad they are, but once we give them stuff — like these produce and food and toys — it just really makes you feel happy inside,” said Lockwood.
“It’s important to help others, because that’s — that’s just a part of living. Helping others — making an impact in your society — so I would tell everybody to just help and spread the holiday joy,” added Shell.
Metropolitan Ministries is in the final stages of its holiday giving campaign, which spokesperson Justine Burke said has broken recent records.
“When the COVID pandemic started, we saw a huge spike in need, and we really thought by now that that need would kind of subside a bit, and we haven’t seen that. We’ve seen as much need — and actually, we’ll serve a few thousand more families this year than we did last year,” she said.
Burke said many of the faces are brand new to the nonprofit, during a period of higher prices and a shortage of affordable housing.
“They might not be homeless, but they’re not stable. You know, they’re living with a relative or a friend. They don’t really have a place of their own. Some people have different jobs that pay less money, and they’re not able to make all the ends meet,” she said.
At the St. Vincent de Paul Community Kitchen and Resource Center in Clearwater, which serves a nutritious meal to those who are hungry and/or homeless every day of the year, staff members and volunteers have noticed a similar trend.
“In November, we had 486 different people come through our doors for a meal and supportive services, and that’s a huge number,” said Chrissy Bond. “It’s larger than we’ve ever had in a month.”
Both Bond and Burke are celebrating the philanthropy their respective nonprofits provide, which both say is made possible by the community’s generosity.
“We’re constantly overwhelmed by the kindness and compassion that we’ve seen, and we just want to say thank you for all the donations,” said Burke.
But, there’s more work to do.
As Metropolitan Ministries wraps up its holiday tent campaign, it’s still seeking donations of gift cards and gifts for teenagers. Its tents in Tampa and in West Pasco County are open until 3 p.m. on Christmas Eve.
At St. Vincent de Paul, Bond is hoping for more volunteers. While she appreciates volunteerism on holidays like Christmas, she particularly needs more on other days of the year.